Android phones could follow Apple’s lead with new 3D facial recognition

Brett Williams, Mashable, 8/18/17

Android phones sometimes follow Apple’s lead when it comes to key functionality features, and the next generation of smartphones could be no different. Future Android devices are expected to mimic one of the upcoming iPhone 8‘s most anticipated new features: 3D facial scanning.

Qualcomm’s next generation of Snapdragon chips, which will be announced at the end of the year, will have greatly improved, new image signal processors (ISP) and will likely enable even better depth-sensing capabilities for smartphone cameras, according to a report from CNET.

That new processing power could potentially allow phones with the highest-tier Qualcomm chips — which in the current generation of devices include the flagships from OnePlus, Samsung, and HTC — to offer the same 3D facial sensing feature expected to replace Touch ID in the iPhone 8 as its go-to biometric security feature.

The new 3D scanning capability will ostensibly change the way we interact with our phones yet again, like when the iPhone 5S introduced Touch ID in 2013 and other phonemakers adopted it to follow suit. So Android devices will probably want to adopt the tech as soon as possible to stay competitive.

The new Qualcomm chipset will reportedly use infrared light sensors, which would likely be attached to a smartphone’s camera module, to “measure depth and render high-resolution depth maps for facial recognition, 3D reconstruction of objects and mapping.” Biometric security features would be one of the most obvious uses for the functionality, although it could also be harnessed for other things, like VR.

The chips could also help to improve Android cameras, which for many, specifically ex-Google SVP of Social Vic Gundotra, lag behind Apple’s latest dual lens setup in the iPhone 7 Plus.

The iPhone 8’s 3D facial sensors (and everything else about the phone) haven’t been confirmed yet, so it might be premature to call the feature the future of smartphone security. The rumor mill is strong however, and Qualcomm is ready to stake its own claim in the functionality — so you shouldn’t be surprised if we’re all unlocking our new phones with our faces by this time next year.

Posted on August 18, 2017 at 8:42 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iOS, Mobile Technology

Why HTML5 is killing Flash: it’s the devices, people!

Ruadhán O’Donoghue, MobiForge, 8/18/17

It’s 7 years now since Steve Jobs famously declared war on Flash in an open letter entitled “Thoughts on Flash“. With his knack for prescience, only now is it really looking like it’s lights out for Flash. In response, during the Android Keynote at Google IO 2010, Vic Gundotra cheekily declared that “it turns out on the Internet people use Flash”, that Android would still support Flash, and that it was “much nicer than just saying no”, referring to Apple’s decision not to support it. But, after five years, Flash was officially dropped from the Android platform, and since late 2011, Adobe no longer develops its mobile Flash player:

We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook.

Fast-forward to July 2017 and Adobe is putting the final nails in the coffin for Flash, albeit fairly slowly:

We will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats

Yes, Flash is dying a slow, slow death, and will no longer be distributed after 2020.

Pressure had been mounting on Flash from all sides: advertisers, publishers, and browser manufacturers. In 2015 Amazon sounded a death knell for Flash, saying that Flash based ads will no longer be permitted on its platforms from September. Use HTML5 instead, was the company’s advice.

Further woes for Flash came with the news that the Chrome browser would begin to automatically pause Flash based ads from 1st September that year. Google recommended switching to HTML5 (and indeed started to convert Flash ads to HTML5 automatically where possible). So, with Amazon’s ad network also ceasing Flash ads on that day, September 1st 2015 became something of a day of reckoning for Flash, and perhaps a day to be celebrated as a turning point in the history of the web (#FlashBegoneDay). From that day, we all started to see fewer Flash ads in our browsers.

In addition a large group of major news publishers banded together, manifesto-style, urging advertisers to deliver the final death blow to Flash, by moving away from the technology altogether. The letter listed the many benefits of moving to HTML5:

[T]he one open, industry-standard, universal format for building mobile-ready creative is HTML5.

Your opportunity has never been greater. Nearly half of the US population has a mobile phone with internet access, and one out of five pageviews on the web happen on a mobile device – a number that is growing every month.

HTML5 will enable you […] to make your creative ideas captivating on every screen, elevate your brand image, and lower your creative costs.

The letter closed off like this, with the prominence and influence of the participating publishers hard to miss:

The impact for mobile web can only be positive.

Why now is the right time for HTML5 to take over from Flash

Flash is history! This graph is a wonderful reminder of how HTML5 has grown over the past decade, and why Flash is no longer needed. HTML5-capable devices are everywhere; the devices are ready, people!

Number of HTML5 features supported by number of new devices released by year
21.5%32.2%41.8%Year Released200020012002200320042005200620072008200920102011201220132014Number of Devices Released0200400600800100012001400160018005 features10 features15 features20 features25 features
Number of HTML5 features

Chart reproduced from our HTML5 support in mobile devices article, using data from DeviceAtlas.

Posted on August 18, 2017 at 8:36 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Android apps can find nearby devices even when they’re offline

Jon Fingas, Engadget, 8/2/17

Nearby Connections doesn’t need an internet connection to start talking.

If you’ve ever wished that your smartphone’s apps would automatically do your bidding the moment you neared a device, you’re in luck. After previewing it at I/O in May, Google has made the second generation of its Nearby Connections toolkit available to Android developers. The updated framework uses Bluetooth and WiFi to find nearby devices, connect to them and perform tasks without requiring an internet connection. Your hotel room could auto-adjust the temperature the moment you walk in, Google suggests, while your phone could merge contacts whenever you’re close to your spouse.

The kit supports both mesh networks, where devices form an independent network on the spot, as well as a centralized connection where one device rules the roost. That’s particularly helpful in classrooms or meetings, where you’d want one device to take priority — say, a Jackbox-style party game where a host hands out trivia questions.

It’ll take a while for the new Nearby Connections to wend its way into the apps you use, but there are already companies who’ve had a head start. The Weather Channel is installing mesh networks in areas with poor internet access to help send weather warnings, Hotstar is offering offline media sharing and GameInsight will help you find and play people offline. And of course, Google has its own — an upcoming Android TV remote app will use Nearby Connections to get you started and turn on second-screen experiences while you’re watching shows. If more developers like the idea, this could quietly become one of Android’s more important assets, especially as smart homes take off.

Posted on August 2, 2017 at 5:51 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Windows 10 preview connects your Android phone to your PC

Jon Fingas, Engadget, 8/2817

Pick up your web browsing where you left off.

Microsoft is acting on its promise to make PCs and phones live in harmony. It just posted a Windows 10 Insider Preview (on the Fast ring) that introduces the first batch of features integrating Windows with your mobile devices. If you have an Android phone, you can link it to your PC to continue your web browsing on the bigger screen. Once it’s set up, you only have to use your browser’s usual sharing option to punt a website to your computer. The preview is missing iPhone support and many of the slicker features Microsoft promised in the Fall Creators Update, such as seamless document syncing, but it could be worth a try.

Thankfully, that’s not the only addition in the preview. Cortana now shows certain web search results without prompting you to launch an external web browser, and you can tell the assistant to restart, log out or even turn off your PC. In Windows 10 Mobile, you can also switch to a portrait view while you’re using the PC-like Continuum mode. Fast ring releases like these aren’t for the faint-hearted (expect bugs), but it’s clear this is more than just bug fixes.

Posted on August 2, 2017 at 5:48 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iOS, Mobile Technology

Google is finally making it easier to create GIFs on Android

BRETT WILLIAMS, Mashable, 7/21/17

Google’s Motion Stills app brought some much-needed focus and balance to the iPhone’s Live Photos when it launched last year. Thus far, however, it has only brought its steady video stabilizing goodness to iOS users.

That’s no longer the case. Google Research is finally rolling out Motion Stills for Android, giving everyone outside of Apple’s ecosystem a shot at tuning up their video content.

The new app is an odd fit for Android, which doesn’t have the same Live Photo functionality as iOS phones, but that doesn’t mean intrepid phone photographers won’t take advantage of the editing package to GIF the hell out of anything and everything around them for maximum shareable potential.

The app will allow users to record quick Motion Stills, which are similar to the short video clips iOS devices capture as Live Photos. They’ll be able automatically edit the media with the motion stabilizing feature, taking shaky footage and morphing it into smooth, streamlined shots.

The new Android version of Motion Stills also includes Fast Forward, a feature that shrinks down and edits longer videos by pushing the speed. Lengthier clips (up to a minute long) can be ramped up to eight times the pace of real life and doctored with the stabilization tool.

Google Research’s team says the Android release is a retooling of the iOS version, with a brand new streaming approach that processes each frame of a video even as it’s being recorded. That leads to near immediate frame stabilization, in theory, which means you’ll be able to share your GIF much more quickly than if you used another conversion tool. Rather than writing a whole new file, the original recording is altered, too, which could mean your memory and battery don’t take as big of a hit.

The app looks cool, but it’s still a watered-down version of the features available to iOS users. None of Motion Stills’ expanded editing options that really make it fun (like active text for GIFs and pinpoint image exporting) are included with the Android launch.

Google says Motion Stills doubles as an opportunity for the team to experiment and develop its tools and strategies for short-form video, so more of those features could be on the way. The app is available now for phones running Android 5.1 and later, so get GIFing.

Posted on July 21, 2017 at 5:34 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Mozilla’s new Firefox features improve browsing on iOS and Android

David Lumb, Engadget, 7/21/17

The mobile apps get a few upgrades apiece.

Firefox is adding a few quality-of-life features to its mobile browsers. To celebrate hitting one million downloads in the month since it launched, the minimalistic, privacy-intensive Firefox Focus for Android now lets users download files, supports full-screen video and enables opening the browser right from notifications.

Firefox for iOS added a night mode to ease your nocturnal journeys across the web and a QR code reader for…whenever you need that. The browser will also display recently-visited sites and highlights from earlier sessions when users pop open a new tab, and the Feature Recommendations addition will point out time-saving shortcuts.

Posted on July 21, 2017 at 5:30 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iOS, Mobile Technology

Google brings its fancy Motion Stills GIF-making app to Android

Jessica Conditt, Engadget, 7/20/17

It’s been an iOS exclusive for the past year.

Motion Stills has existed in a strange space for the past year. It’s a Google-made app but it’s been available only on iOS, piggybacking off Apple’s Live Photos function to create dramatic, stabilized GIFs and short videos. Android owners, Google’s main user base, were left out of the fun entirely — until today.

Motion Stills is available on Android, complete with a handful of updates. A new recording interface allows users to capture a short video with a single tap, like snapping a photo, or condense a longer recording (up to one minute long) with the Fast Forward function. On Android, Motion Stills comes with a fresh trimming algorithm that’s designed to protect against accidental camera shakes and pocket shots. Just like on iOS, users can capture their shots without an internet connection.

Google redesigned the Android app’s video pipeline so that it processes each frame of a video as it’s recorded. “By computing intermediate motion metadata, we are able to immediately stabilize the recording while still performing loop optimization over the full sequence,” the Google Researchblog says. “All this leads to instant results after recording — no waiting required to share your new GIF.”

Now that Motion Stills is on Android, Google says it’s considering integrating the tech into its proprietary tools like Google Photos.

Apple users, don’t fear: When iOS 11 launches later this year, it’ll bring Motion Stills-esque updates to Live Photos. That might be one reason Google decided to (finally) move Motion Stills to Android.

Posted on July 20, 2017 at 4:58 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iOS, Mobile Technology

Apple is making Samsung rich

, Business Insider, 7/7/17

Samsung Electronics on Friday forecasted record profit and sharply increased revenue in an earnings-guidance release.  Samsung expects its operating profit to increase by 72%, to $12.1 billion, and revenue to rise by 18%, to about $52 billion.  Those are strong results — and it looks like they’re coming from Samsung’s top smartphone rival, Apple, analysts told Reuters.  Samsung is best known as a brand that sells phones like the Galaxy S8. But its most profitable division sells parts, like screens and memory chips, to companies including Apple.  In fact, Samsung is reported to be the only supplier of the new next-generation OLED screenexpected to be a key selling point of the iPhone 8.

Wall Street analysts expect Apple’s iPhone 8 to be a sales monster, with a new design and a backlog of loyal customers waiting to upgrade spurring a “supercycle” of sales. If Apple plans to launch the iPhone in September, it’s probably already taking shipments of parts from its suppliers, including Samsung.

“Final June sales for our Apple Monitor rose by 18% month-over-month and well above the average decline of 2% over the past twelve years. This compares to the five-year average decrease of 7% and a 2% increase in June 2016,” Brian White, an analyst at Drexel Hamilton, wrote in a note looking at Apple’s suppliers, which he calls the “Apple Monitor.”

“We believe the initial ramp of certain components for the new iPhones this fall, combined with recently launched Macs and iPad Pros, contributed to this performance,” he continued.

Samsung’s operating profit this quarter may even top Apple’s for the first time. Analysts estimate Apple’s operating profit this quarter at $10.5 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

So even though Samsung’s vice chairman and heir apparent, Lee Jae-yong, is on trial over allegations he was part of a corruption scheme, the company continues to deliver huge results.

Samsung will announce its earnings at the end of the month. Apple’s earnings report is scheduled for August 1.

Posted on July 7, 2017 at 5:59 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Touch-friendly controls are coming to Chrome OS

Saqib Shah, Engadget, 7/7/17

Don’t be surprised if this ends up in the next version of Chrome’s stable build.

Google’s lightweight Chrome OS was never intended for touch, but that didn’t stop the likes of Samsung and Acer creating touch-enabled Chromebooks. It probably helped that the OS was set to receive access to millions of Android apps. All that was left was to put those touch displays to good use. And, the updated launcher for Chrome Canary (the experimental iteration) is a sign of things to come.

The new touch-friendly launcher sits at the bottom of the screen with just the Google search bar and suggested apps visible. From there, you can swipe up to reveal all your apps. Additionally, you can tap to use the voice search function, which will open your request in a new Chrome window.

Canary comes with the latest, untested features — meaning it can also be pretty buggy — and runs alongside the regular Chrome. If you’re one of those people that’s interested in the code behind new builds, you can find that here.

Posted on July 7, 2017 at 5:55 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Unlock your PC with your Samsung phone’s fingerprint reader

Jon Fingas, Engadget, 7/7/17

Virtually any recent Galaxy now supports Windows Hello.

Have a recent Samsung phone and a Windows 10 PC? Life’s about to get a bit easier. Samsung has updated its Flow app to let you use the fingerprint reader on Galaxy devices running Android Marshmallow or newer (such as the S6, S7 and S8) to log into any Windows 10 PC using Hello, not just Samsung’s own Galaxy TabPro S. If you regularly keep your phone on-hand, you won’t have to enter your password every time you sit down at your computer.

Flow is also much more helpful if you regularly check alerts on your phone. The app now syncs mobile notifications with any Windows 10 device, rather than just Samsung-branded PCs. You won’t have to worry about missing a text message or an Instagram like just because you’re working at your desk.

Posted on July 7, 2017 at 5:53 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
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